June 19, 2018 / 9:46 PM

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Donald Trump’s Dad Was Woody Guthrie’s Racist Landlord, Subject of Unrecorded Songs



By the time Woody Guthrie signed his name to lease an apartment in one of Fred Trump's Brooklyn buildings in December 1950, he had already written and recorded many of his most famous condemnations of inequality and racism as well as his alternative national anthem "This Land Is Your Land." However, recently published unrecorded songs suggest that current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's dad was the subject of some of the folk icon's most scathing criticisms.

Will Kaufman, a professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire, recently shared writings the folk singer penned during his two year tenure at Fred Trump's Beach Haven building with the website The Conversation. They include lyrics that call out the landlord's bigoted business practices. As Kaufman points out, the lyrics condemn the landlord's racist interpretation of the Fair Housing Act's guidelines for avoiding "inharmonious uses of housing."

History shows that the folk singer's accusations in these writings aren't unfounded. The real estate tycoon, dubbed "Old Man Trump" in the lyrics, was investigated by a U.S. Senate committee in 1954 for profiteering off of public contracts regarding Beach Haven. In the '70s, the Department of Justice sued the family's real estate business for violations of the Fair Housing Act, Time reports.

As Death and Taxes Magazine points out, reading the folk singer's Beach Haven writings in the context of the 2016 presidential campaign calls to mind the candidate's notorious proclamation: "My legacy has its roots in my father's legacy." According to Guthrie, that legacy is one based on inequities and intolerance.

In the current context of presidential candidates discussing building border walls, the writings also call to mind the oft-omitted "This Land Is Your Land" verse: "There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me / The sign was painted, said 'Private Property.' / But on the backside, it didn't say nothing. / This land was made for you and me." Although he wrote the song in 1940 and recorded it in 1944 containing this verse, the song was not released until 1951 and this verse had not made the cut, NPR reports.

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